By Tenzin McGrupp
29 September 00
"I cannot believe they got engaged during a Phish show in Las Vegas!" Angela exclaimed, with her wide resplendent eyes reflecting the non-stop twinkle of neon lights in the endless Las Vegas night, as we euphorically walked back to our hotel room.
"And in front of me!" I offered up.
I witnessed the proposal, and although it was not the strangest thing I ever saw at a Phish show, it was the most tender moment I think I ever got to be a part of. The lucky girl was named Stephanie, and she coincidentally lived on Angela’s freshman hall several years earlier, during their college days in Austin. Stephanie’s boyfriend popped the question during the first set of Phish, right in the middle of their cover version of Bob Marley’s "Mellow Mood".
Kyle, was his name, and he was filled with nervous and excited energy that engrossed his entire skinny body. He slowly freaked out before the show started. When his girlfriend went to get a drink, he turned to talk to me and told me everything he’d been planning. Kyle bought the Phish tickets on E-Bay and spent a lot of money, but he felt it was worth it.
"Phish is our most sincere common interest, and was part of the reason we are together, so it’s only fitting that we get engaged at a show. And why not Vegas?"
When he heard the rumors about these shows being part of the last Phish tour before breaking up, he knew it was the time to go for it.
"Relax," I told him, "You have nothing to worry about, that lovely girl would be lucky to have you as her husband!"
I asked him if he had a camera, because I would happily take a picture of their moment.
"Shit!" he yelled, with a look of panic coming over his face, because after months of preparations, his perfect moment would have been ruined by a typical stoner move, as he left his camera on the dresser in his hotel room.
"No worries, bro," I said in a soothing voice. "My friends, have a camera. They will help you out."
I pointed to my Japanese friends, Oki and Tumi, musicians whom I met in Tokyo a few months earlier when I was following Phish in Japan. They came to America to see New York, and to tour several west coast Phish shows with me. And there we all stood, at the back of the crowded floor of a Phish show: me, two Japhans, and a couple soon to be engaged.
I tried to explain to Oki and Tumi what was going to happen in broken Japanese and English. And they understood right away and gave me a camera to get ready for when Kyle was going to pop the question to his girlfriend. I gave him the thumbs up and he smiled.
Before the show began, I chatted with the lovely couple. I found out that we had many similarities. Kyle was from Seattle, and I lived in Seattle. They currently lived in Atlanta, and I also lived there too for several years. Stephanie was a writer for a small newspaper, and I read papers all the time. (Just kidding, I told her I was a writer.) And most of all, she told me that went to the University of Texas.
"UT?" I asked, "Do you know Angela Hayes?"
"That name sounds very familiar," she answered.
I looked around to find Angela, so I could point her out. She was several yards away from me, sitting down with a group of her friends from high school and Austin.
"Yes, I know her! We lived in the same dorm. And she was in one of my writing classes."
The show started and it was the first American Phish show for the Japhans, so they were excited. Since, it’s a Las Vegas show, and I always get worked up when I’m in Vegas, I was definitely excited, as I anxiously focused on waiting for the sign from Kyle.
He waited until the fourth song to propose, then he turned to me told me that it was time. He pulled a small silver box containing the ring out of his pocket and got down on his knee in the middle of the packed, smokey, Thomas and Mack Center, and I was there clicking away taking as many pictures as I could, while Phish played "Mellow Mood".
She said, "Yes!" as she jumped into his arms, and I captured their loving embrace on Oki’s camera.
Then they both hugged me.
During setbreak I found Angela and as I told her the proposal story, small tears of joy rolled off her face. She walked over to the newly engaged couple and hugged them both. They joked about the strange coincidence about how they went to school with each other five years earlier, and didn’t really know each other, but at that exact time, they were meeting again after one of the most special moments in their lives and all because they newly engaged couple happened to be standing next to me, who was smoking up with two zany Japanese guitar playing hippies from Tokyo, at a Phish show in Las Vegas.
"You know," Angela grinned, "for the rest of their lives, they will remember that proposal as one of the brightest and happiest moments of their lives, and you, you McGrupp… you were a part of that."
"Wow, you’re right," I agreed, "But don’t forget the twins."
And as if on cue, Angela turned to look at Oki and Tumi, and they both smiled at her and waved.
Tenzin McGrupp is a writer from New York City.